Georgia Democrat U.S. Rep. John Lewis took to the House floor this week to shrug off new rules produced after he led a 26-hour sit-in last summer for a vote on gun control legislation.
Lewis, who led over 40 fellow Democrats in their historic sit-in protest last June, on Tuesday questioned the legality of the proposed fines, arguing it could stifle future lawmakers from speaking their mind.
“When House leadership denied the will of the people to bring strong gun violence legislation to the floor, as a last resort, we staged a sit-in here in the Well to give voice to their mandate,” said Lewis. “As members of Congress, we have a sworn duty to speak up and speak out, if we do not believe the actions of this body represent the will of all Americans.”
Lewis, known for his work during the Civil Rights era, went on to say he and other lawmakers have a right to dissent, regardless of the new rules.
“I am not afraid. I am not afraid to be fined. I have been fined before,” said Lewis. The Georgia lawmaker ended his speech by saying he would offer a “motion to strike the section that silences calls for gun violence prevention.”
The proposed rules package by House Republicans — in strong control of the chamber — would authorize fines of $500 for the first offense and $2,500 for subsequent violations to be taken directly from the salary of representatives who take video or photos on the chamber floor. Further, those who engage in “disorderly or disruptive conduct” would be reported to the House Ethics Committee for possible sanction.